Final Project: “Der Schmerz”

Der Schmerz

This project is an amalgamation of introductory static movement and short film direction. Formatted like an old silent film, this short film investigates the direction of movement, characters as occupants of space, and the camera’s intimate approach to an abstract narrative.

Der Schmerz (meaning Grief), is a short film submission for my final project for my studio course, Ways of Making. My intention for this short is to explore the notion of static movement (i.e. cinemagraphs) and how its principles could be used to alter the outcome of a film shot in live-action. Beginning this project, my intention for this collaboration can be seen in this Alexandre Desplat-motivated 30 second sample I made here:

During the “initiative” stages of the studio, Paul invited us to investigate various approaches to filming scenes so we may have a first-hand feel of what grips us in a creative choke we do not want to be let go of.


Nevertheless, the direction of movement is choreographed by the director in regards to the mise-en-scène. 

Direction of movement and characters as occupants of space.
There are minimal movements throughout the film as I was more interested in how the actors would occupy the space around them as opposed to what they occupy. My DOP must have harboured such ill-feelings for me because I was incredibly picky when it came to production day. I constantly moved the camera and thus, him, to perfectly capture that shot.Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 9.31.13 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-09 at 9.21.04 PM Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 9.21.40 PM Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 9.23.01 PM

I was interested in “tight” mid to close-up shots with as minimal use of negative space as possible. Negative space is as unnatural-looking as it is clunky and uncool. Ultimately, it looks quite the unprofessional.

Take a look at the difference between the first take and the last take of this scene:

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 9.34.34 PM Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 9.22.25 PM

First take, the character of the wise old lady looks adrift from the frame as if she was superimposed over the shot of the character of the young man. Reflecting back on our class exercises, I find this to be my arch-nemesis. I always seem to find an excuse to capture “as much” as I can in a frame and in doing so, the supposed focus on a particular element on screen (i.e. a character) is lost. Of course, the use of a wide-shot is very commonly used in films, but their purpose is to establish and to convey a broader sense of space and place.

Por ejemplo:Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 9.26.17 PM

Intimate approach to abstract narrative.
I purposely made the narrative of this short abstract as to not take away from the visuals. In the beginning, I thought that this ambitious thinking would yield outstanding visual results. To my dismay, I had not thought it through enough. I quote myself,

Miyazaki builds upon the innate ability of humans to sense movement and draws his viewers through this and the explicitness of it, thus making for a profound play on the senses.

Ultimately, I did not weigh in the repetitive value of a cinemagraph as opposed to the one-directional movement of a live action shot. Cinemagraphs are essentially, living images. It gives the viewers the illusion of watching a video (or a photograph) when in fact, they are watching a combination of both.

You see, cinemagraphs cannot be transitional unless I slow their speed/duration down to match the rest of the sequence’s pace. In doing so, however, would mean a distortion of the cinemagraph’s purpose of movement and will take away from its lifelike quality. A conundrum? A conundrum. This is why the only cinemagraph you see in the first cut of this film is at the very beginning. It established the reason as to why the young man was crying and grieving and established the backstory of his conversation with the old woman towards the end of the film. And unfortunately, that’s its one and only use.

At the editing suite.
I found myself dozing at half past twelve with bowls of honey oatmeal lying around my table and a dream sequence of my ambulating to receive my Academy Award. 

Three words: They are your best mates, never take them for granted.

I originally didn’t plan the film to be formatted like an old silent film but after finding an old found-footage documentary on Poland and analysing the bottled-up tears for my bleak attempt at colour grading that yielded zilch, I yelled eureka! I mean, why not format it into a silent film after all? It’s dusty, it’s grainy, it’s noisy and pitched at the highest quality of low. What better way to set a film in WWII by being attractively 1930’s? Below:

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 10.33.37 PM

Final Outcome.

What will the outcome be? Will the transition be too jarring? Or will it punctuate the emotional resonance I am trying to achieve in this scene? And if it turns out incongruous and incompatible, could the application of 2D animated static-movement techniques (i.e. Studio Ghibli films) help even this out?

Above is the question I posed in regards to the the transitional use of static movement. In the film, I used the cross-dissolve effect for the “transition to be too jarring” problem. Did the cinemagraph punctuate the emotional resonance I was trying to achieve in the scene? I believe it did, and I deliberately made the length of the cinemagraph scene longer because of such.

I want to focus now on the “application of 2D animated static-movement techniques (i.e. Studio Ghibli films)” to help to even out the incompatibility of cinemagraphs and live-action. Because I want to continue the project further down the track, my next investigation is the use of lighting/colour and continuity.

  • Lighting/colour

For my next attempt, I will “mute out” the “still” parts of the video and add more vibrancy to the moving elements of the image like above.

  • Continuity:  Cinemagraph (repeating) CUT TO live-action shot of the footage before it was turned into a cinemagraph.
    This particular edit, I think, would work well in regards to transition.

Final thoughts.
Ways of Making met my expectations and more. What I enjoyed and appreciated the most was the creative freedom we had to investigate and eventually make a film/sequence/media that we were most interested in. The practical exercises helped in my understanding of the use of cameras and capitalising their attributes and functions to best suit our needs and at the same time, leaving enough room for exploration and investigation.

I enjoyed working with a talented bunch of kiddos who I know will do so well in their own careers as media-makers and I am now even more equipped to use this visual medium to write, produce and direct as much as I possibly can.

short film production day + pics!

It’s been pre-production madness for Grief (working title) the past couple of weeks when 1. you’re a broke university student who cannot afford to hire the perfect location of your dreams and 2. I’m getting ahead of myself because 3. when you’ve got a superstar of a production manager who can find the perfect location in a span of a couple of hours, you know everything will be A-OK *thumbs up emoji*

Yesterday’s production schedule went super smoothly with the fun of a thousand elephants at a watering hole that I even found myself tampering with the footage as soon as I got home and friends, that’s saying a lot for someone like me who prefers to nap out than sort out.

Here’s a couple of cool BTS stills/picz!

13323595_1213041702039477_5318423249632773124_o 13320515_1213044188705895_6798377257607507872_o 13316989_1213042085372772_1917555108271588799_o 13268263_1213043575372623_1030144938314853068_o13316969_1213045658705748_6337407097687839558_o

Shoutout to LaMarcus Aldridge, Stephanie and Alaine for being the troop de troupe crew of endless patience and resilience for my innate ability to be like Amy Santiago from Brooklyn Nine Nine (everyone go watch it).

To-do list:

Monday = cinemagraphs
Tuesday – Thursday = putting everything together.

Pray for a friend. It’s going to be a long one. #TeamNoSleep



Reflection on visual aesthetic: the Pride & Prejudice

There are certain films that beguiles, encapsulates, wraps you up in tenderhearted sentimentalities as you go flying up, up, up in a cloudless sky where dreams are made of, grasped, and you can ride beyond fields of imagination made real.

And as a young girl of twelve then, I found this in Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice.

~ Yarra Valley Shoot ~ 

Pride and Prejudice.mp4

I was heavily inspired by Kevin Macleod’s “Calmant” as I put this little piece together. Again, as noticed the exposure is not to my liking as DSLR’s are still not my forte. I’m going for this kind of look:

I have read that for his film Atonement, also a gorgeous and visually similar film to P&P, Joe Wright stretched Christian Dior stockings over the camera lens to achieve soft focus, and that, my friends, is the kind of aesthetic I am here to emulate and be inspired by.

In this particular piece that I’ve put together, however, my focus was on the music and soundscape. I have an inherent adoration for nature and filming on-location, capturing the magical beauty of the natural world as they are and so I augmented this theme/sentiment by adding a soft, nature soundscape (Koyoora autumun afternoon).

Without the use of tripod, it does look quite clunky at best but reflecting back on it (edit: watching the clip many times over), I realised that with the combined music and soundscape, it almost makes the film feel surreal, as if you’re floating, almost, particularly towards the end.

I plan to explore this aspect of filming with next time using a tripod, similar music and soundscape, and different exposure as well.

Reflection on visual aesthetic: exposure in fantasy

~ Yarra Valley Shoot ~

Enchanted path.mp4

Crossroads: thick, dark, wooded forestry to your left, bright, illuminated, enchanting path to your right.

Dilemma: where do you go? Which path should you take? I, the filmmaker chooses “por que no los dos!” (I knew my Spanish would come in handy at some point).

(00:00:01-00:00:11) I chose to play around with exposure in this particular exercise. If you notice, hard light illuminates the enchanted path on the right, thus bathing the wooded forestry in contrasting darkness to the left. I like this particular scene because it gives off an abstract meaning of finality on one side, and an unknown adventure on the other. Choose wisely, says a Morgan Freeman voice over.

The implications of this chosen exposure is highlighted even more on (00:00:12-endin the sample.

With an addition of J.J. Abrams’ style lens flare, I make my way towards the crossroads. When I focused on the left forest side, light filters in and reveals that the forest is not as scary as it actually looks when given a bit of light. Of course, the crunching sound of feet could very well say otherwise, but visually, the audience can feel somewhat relieved.

As I pan to focus on the enchanted path on the right, however, the forest is again bathed in darkness but the path is dazzlingly radiated. As I reflect upon this particular exercise, I come to several conclusions in using movement and exposure.

Firstly, if I had been following a subject from behind, exposure plays an important part in the outcome of choice. Would the subject follow a path of darkness or would the subject follow a path of light?

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 5.05.55 PM

We filmed using natural light on quite a sunny day. If I balanced the wide-shot by lighting the forest side, the shot would be interpreted completely differently.

a variety of exciting projects and what I garnered from them

During today’s presentation of ideas, I thoroughly enjoyed the eclectic mix of project proposals each person had in mind to create and produce by the end of the semester. From an exploration of lighting and mise-en-scene, to the philosophical, the long-take and what makes editing good or bad, the thought process and the means to do so are both encouraging as their fellow media-maker and also a stimulant to one’s creative plotting and/or scheming.

What I garnered from the proposals that could perhaps lend itself to my own project is directed more towards those who were interested in mise-en-scene, framing and composition, lighting (I am horrible also and I aim to befriend thy project-owner so you can teach me your skills), and editing, particularly the action-editing sequence.

Action-editing: this particular component (editing in general, really) is crucial to the way I will be structuring my short film. Would a variety of cuts ranging from close-ups, medium-shots, etc. would allow for more freedom in using cinemagraphs in a variety of ways and thus, convey the narrative aspect of the short film more fluidly?

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 11.37.34 PM

Framing and composition: I am aiming for a more intimate feel as an aesthetic and also as to ease the burden of ambitiousness. But stay tuned for this because after writing a script or shot list, it may just change. Besides, one must think about feasibility always.


First things first: SCHEDULING. Will return with a more updated schedule for short film production!

Presentation: Static Movement and the Narrative Form

My project is summarised under what I would like to call as Static Movement. This phrase stems from my directorial inspiration, Studio Ghibli’s Hayao Miyazaki, a master filmmaker who uses a combination of simplicity and the essence of humanity in his films to tell a powerful and evoking story.

My research on his works has then led me to question as to how animated feature films “soothe the spirit” and envelop you in its fictional reality better than some of those found in non-animated feature films. And this is where static movement comes into play.

The answer to the enigma of static movement is on emphasis. Miyazaki doesn’t just choose the main protagonist or a certain character in his films to show movement and action, but he complements this with another feature that also moves before making everything else static so we viewers are attuned to only what moves on screen.

Us viewers are given a different form of entry into the world of the characters that you are following on screen: we are given entry to not just what matters to the advancement of the story, but to them as characters whether they be a child or an adult, a monster or some form of creature.

In saying that, my project will be a narrative short film using static movement and normal filming principles.

My approach on this subject is simple:

  • First, I will be making a series of my own cinemagraphs both for practice and investigation – these cinemagraphs will help me in figuring out whether their use is specifically as an establishing shot, a transitional shot or something I can use in the middle of an action.

In terms of the filming process, I will use either a DSLR or a video camera. I will use both in two different investigations and see which one yields the result I want: a crisp, as high-quality as possible cinemagraph.

  • Then, I will be compiling a shot list – this list of shots will be governed by two things: capturing the emotional intensity of certain characters, and shots that can be used for the progression of the story (i.e. a cinemagraph of a moving train then cuts to a crowd of people walking towards the station).

This particular area will allow me to improve my skills as a filmmaker in regards to directing actors, setting up the frame and the dressing the set also.

  • I will also be investigating a particular locale where the film will be set. I was previously thinking of an “ancient world” and mythology aesthetic based on a novel that I am interested in, but I have to assess the feasibility of this option. My other option is setting the film in the 1930’s or 40’s because there is already an underlying conflict there (the world wars happen at this time) and would be a great setting for emotional intensity and to set a narrative.

I am thinking of approaching this in two ways too: I write a script or I stick to a shot list.

I’ve made a 30 second sample of what I hoped to achieve with this project below:

Note: cinemagraphs here were used as establishing shots. Further investigation would be using cinemagraphs in a different way.

presentation ideas: an outline and cinemagraph research

presentation talk:

For the presentation on week 7, J. Master Paul has decided that I must don my Julius Ceasar toga and speak oratory, the details of my project – approach, process and methods. To supplement my speech, I also intend on providing a neat visual aid through a blog post with some pretty pictures and diagrams, mood boards, etc. and top it off with a sample video of what I would like my final project to look like.


I’ve been doing some researching on the web for some cinemagraphs and collecting them to create both my sample video and mood board. Below are some I have in mind:

If you’ll notice, these cinemagraphs does not exactly align with my vision of the “ancient world” aesthetic and of course it boils down to those who are credited for making above cinemagraphs. To stage and dress in the ancient world aesthetic is a challenge in resources and budget restraints. I am glad I found these cinemagraphs, however, for they opened an avenue of new thoughts for me in regards to this project.

How about I centre my project in a more feasible and easily-accessible era, also one of my favourites, the 1930’s-40’s? It is very possible…

Also, a last note, most of the cinemagraphs I have collected and am interested in is for the purpose of “establishing” my scene. As I have mentioned in my post here, I am interested in investigating the use of static movement and normal filming principles to portray a narrative sequence that evokes emotional empathy. As such, should I use cinemagraphs in the midst of an “action” in the story or are its uses limited to just establishing and transitional?

reflection: production mixer – an audio activity

Today’s class particulars were around production mixing and the use of audio equipment. Does my musical brother’s background and my talent for being incredibly rudimentary with unnamed musical instruments give me a slight edge in this area of expertise?

Absolutely not. But the main thing is the fact that I took something out of it and will therefore not look as “uncool” as I was in my previous disarray.

Sound’s prevalence in film is to the utmost, whether it comes from a musical score, a soundtrack, dialogue or diagetic energies in each scene. Noting that in every feature film, sound plays an incredibly important part in the orchestration of each scene by scene, one after another. Even if it’s a silent film, silence itself is integral to the message the filmmaker is conveying to their audience. As a filmmaker, to know the basics is to know how to breathe.

I wished someone had given me “Top Ten Tips on Sound Recording” by David Carlin, a SCENARIO:

Team (un)cool cats decides to film a short film on location at a fellow filmmaker’s friend’s restaurant. Two main characters, boy and girl are on a date. Outcome is a dialogue-heavy short. 

  • Light set up looks good, very au naturale
  • Actors look spiffy though a little nervous and tense (it’s 8.30 in the morning) but that’s easily fixed, thanks director.
  • A.D. with the shot list – CHECK
  • Camera Operator ready to go – CHECK
  • Headphones plugged in on camera jack – CHECK
  • Audio guy with headphones on and boom pole as close as appropriate – CHECK
  • Refrigerator background noise in the background – CHECK
  • 8 hours of filming – DONE AND DUSTED

Enter post-production stage and the background noise from the refrigerator has completely destroyed our audio. There is nothing we can salvage from it, especially with using different types of footages with different distorted sounds thanks to said refrigerator. We even recorded atmos/room on location but the voices are underscored by the buzzing fridge so it was of no use anyway.

No, we didn’t follow rule number one which is to 1. reduce background noise nor rule number 6. never allow sound to distort or 7. monitor dialogue to understand every word.

It’s a shame since the visuals look top. *whispers to self* learning curve, learning curve, learning curve…




movie list – what inspires me?

So folks, I’m sure I’ve been quite nasty with my abundance of descriptions underlined with much excitement towards the project that I have in mind. This post will begin the journey towards its making by listing down some of the movies that I could garner some inspiration from. I move towards making my mood board and a sample video of what I would like to see for my final project.

At the moment, I’m still very much on the “ancient world” mindset so here are some movies/television shows that are centred around this particular world.

After my chat with Paul previously in regards to the novel that I would like to base my project on, I have decided, instead of explicitly adapting the material, to take some scenes, characters, motivations, and themes, and underscore that with mythology free and in the public domain. By converging these aspects together, I rid myself of the “copyright” inferno. Score.

I will be re-watching and taking note of particular clips and scenes in the list above and will be archiving them on Premiere.


Investigation: location scouting and static movement + normal filming principles + narrative = could it work?

Destination: Yarra Valley

Mission: Scout, Locate, Film

Chance of success: A bucketful of sunshine

The Yarra Valley Roadtrip from one end of the earth to another proved aplenty:

  1. Nature churns the creative bubbles. As soon as I sat myself down, I haven’t stopped writing my thoughts and plans, which I hope to regale you all here too.
  2. There are so many dashing locations that are, of course, obstructed by “Private Property” signs, electric fences or a huge lake and you do not own a boat . Shame.
  3. Good establishing footage, check. Shoot to edit, not so much. Abstract, but it gives one a sense of place and further practice of framing, composition, exposure and pull-focus.

In all the trip’s entirety, however, what I garnered is yet again, something that alludes to static movement and its use. My premise? Static movement and the mundane must be shot in consequence of each other.

I know that it could be rather ambitious to include a narrative into the picture, but I want to investigate the possibility of it anyhow because I cannot help but be empathetic. Example of such wizardry below:

Screen Shot 2016-04-09 at 10.27.13 PM

Excusing the liberties I’ve taken with scriptwriting rules above, I’ve been contemplating on how I could possibly introduce Static Movement into a short film without just making a series/sequence of cinemagraph scenes one after another. What I want to achieve is the collaboration and the amalgamation of static movement and normal filming principles to make one, cohesive film/short without making it too stunted nor overtly artsy. I would like to be able to tell a story, evoke emotional empathy and at the same time use above filming principles all in one project.

Using the scene above, I would like to investigate the fluidity of the transition from the static movement shot to the Close Up of The Roman’s face, which leads to the progression of the story. What will the outcome be? Will the transition be too jarring? Or will it punctuate the emotional resonance I am trying to achieve in this scene? And if it turns out incongruous and incompatible, could the application of 2D animated static-movement techniques (i.e. Studio Ghibli films) help even this out?

We start with the basics first, so like above, capturing the emotions before moving on to something like an action scene or ones with lots of movement.

In approaching this investigation here’s a list of to-do’s:

  • Make my own cinemagraph…or a thousand because practice makes perfect
  • Ask the fellow padawan learners and J. Master Paul of what he thinks of above
  • Re: feedback, work on writing a shot-list/script
  • Create a mood board
  • Presentation of ideas to class for feedback
  • We start from there

ps. A sample mood from Julien Douvier, simulacres, simulation